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Hands off our Jobcentre!
Kris Houghton, PCS branch secretary, Barrow-in-Furness
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced a proposed large-scale reduction of its office estate by 20%, including Jobcentres and back-of-house offices with a further reduction of 10% by office co-location.
If the cuts go ahead they will be completed by March 2018, leaving some benefit claimants with further to travel to visit a Jobcentre and some members of DWP staff, with no reasonable chance of redeployment, fearing for their future.
Some remote Jobcentres are also in line for the axe, raising travelling costs for claimants and increasing the risk of benefit sanctions.
Here in Barrow-in-Furness, the only back-of-house office in the country that processes industrial injuries disablement benefit and workers' compensation claims for asbestos-related cancers, could close.
Over 70 vastly experienced members of staff - who have built close working relationships with asbestos charities and support groups and greatly reduced claim times for victims and their families - will struggle to be redeployed within one hour of travel.
Workers from around the country who have developed life threatening and terminal industrial diseases could see a reduction in service and longer waiting times for vital benefit and compensation payments.
In the worst circumstances, families may be left waiting for care and attendance payments after their loved ones have already passed away, denying comfort and peace of mind.
Saturday 11 March, 12 noon, marching from Spirit of Barrow statue to the back of the Town Hall.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 28 February 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.